Artful Thinking

Engage with works of art.

Create connections.


Make your thinking visible in an accordion book.

Fashion it yourself following the directions of artist Arzu Mistry when you’re a participant in the National Gallery of Art’s Summer Institute for Educators.


See, Think, Connect.

Move, Feel, Explore.

Step In, Step Out, Step Back.

These are just three of many routines you can explore.

Try them out.


Developed under the guidance of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Project Zero, the routines help foster critical thinking and creativity in the classroom.

You’ll soon see. Your students will engage, taking flight. The things they notice and wonder and connect with will astound you. Their poems, stories, pictures, paintings, plays will astound you.


I was lucky enough to attend The Summer Institute for Educators at the National Gallery of Art where teachers from all over the world participated in a week-long course in the July (2020). Virtually, because of the pandemic.

Thank you National Gallery of Art for the fellowship so I could attend.


Here are some reflections from my week:

The first surprise was picking up paper and scissors, paint and crayon—for the first time after many years—to create my own accordion book. Under the generous guidance of Arzu Mistry, and in a paraphrase of the words of Professor Shari Tishman, ‘I let my hands show me what my heart knows.’ Now this little book with its pink paper cover sits here at my elbow, a witness to how my sight and thoughts will expand over the week. I will add pockets and snippets and foldouts as I continue to reflect. This is play that is truly valuable; connections can be visibly manifested and contemplated and this exploration helps us to understand more deeply. I believe that my students, many of whom are used to mind mapping, will find the accordion book useful.

July 10, 2020

What a valuable metaphor the Artful Thinking Palette is! After National Gallery of Art educators skillfully showed how slow looking, thinking, wondering and describing are fundamental in their session devoted to Thomas Cole’s The Voyage of Life: Manhood, Shari Tishman then deftly demonstrated how each disposition can shift inquiry. She also showed how, much like an artist mixes paint, so the teacher can blend her approach to suit the needs of the class and students.

July 14, 2020

There was so much else about the week and its fabulous presenters to admire. The choice of the art works that were investigated was varied and the dispositions and routines were galvanizing. From Joanne Leonard’s Winged One, to George Inness’ The Lackawanna Valley, to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s I See Red: Target to various clips of Alvin Ailey’s I Wanna Be Ready, all were inspiring and served as springboards to write poems and short short stories.

July 16, 2020

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